In September 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria were the pinnacle of nature’s fury affecting millions of people in the U.S. and the Caribbean. Through it all, Veterans continued to receive vital health care and support, particularly in the hard-hit areas of Florida and Puerto Rico.
By Susan Wentzell
Millions were affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, storms that occurred at the height of the 2017 hurricane season that set astounding records and impacted every VA hospital and community clinic in the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network’s 64,000-mile service area in Florida, South Georgia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Despite the destruction caused by these monster storms, Veterans continued to receive vital health care and other support, thanks to the selfless efforts of thousands of dedicated VA employees who rallied together to provide around-the-clock care for patients sheltered-in-place in the eight large, hurricane-constructed VA hospitals and to get services back up and running in dozens of outpatient clinics impacted in the Southeast corridor of the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Hurricane Irma: Construction-Hardened VA Hospitals Fare Well
On Sept. 6, Hurricane Irma intensified to a Category 5 storm with the first impacts to St. Thomas, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, where the eye passed just north of the island as a Category 5 that evening.
Although the island missed the worst of the storm, it sustained some damage from the heavy rain and powerful winds with widespread power outages affecting nearly 900,000 of the island’s 3.5 million people.
Fortunately, the San Juan VA Medical Center was prepared, had backup generator power, plentiful supplies and only minor damage. Operations soon returned to normal at its main campus and clinics on the island and beyond, with the exception of the St. Thomas Community Outpatient Clinic, which still remains closed. Continues on pg 3